Everton v Swansea
Sunday February 16, 13:30
Live on ITV 1
After their game midweek against Crystal Palace was called off due to adverse weather, Roberto Martinez's Everton currently find themselves in a bit of a momentum-free vacuum. They've lost two of their last three, one of those losses was a heavy defeat to their keenest rivals and they realistically now know that even a top four finish is likely to be beyond them.
The FA Cup, then, offers a realistic chance of success given the quality of their team and Martinez's pedigree in it as a manager (he is the current cup holder, lest we forget), and Swansea should offer robust but not insurmountable oppposition.
If the Toffees were outclassed by Liverpool then their problem in the defeat at Tottenham was one of cutting edge and without Romelu Lukaku, Everton don't look like they have a striker of good enough quality to turn all their possession and passing moves into tangible return. Lacina Traore, the on-loan AS Monaco striker, will likely be turned to and expected to fill the sizable void.
While Garry Monk may not have the football pedigree of his predecessor, it has been a case of so far, so good at Swansea under his management. A big win over your closest rivals is an absolutely textbook way to start a regime in charge of your most beloved club, and Monk may be English but he's a Swansea man through and through.
There is a feeling that Monk has gone back to basics with the Swans, recalling the likes of Leon Britton and ensuring his side go back to the style they were known for before Michael Laudrup's ambition and personality got the better of him and this has certainly worked against Cardiff and Stoke (where the Welsh outfit picked up a creditable draw).
But will it work at Goodison Park? It's a big ask. Everton are very strong despite their very recent problems and Sunderland remain the only team to have won there this season in what looks more and more like a freak result.
For all the question marks over their cutting edge, Everton still have lots of quality and will go into this game as strong favourites. They're currently trading at around 1.645/8, with Swansea way out at 6.611/2. The Draw is available to back at 4.1.
The Swans have essentially been average all round so far this year, both home and away, and it's hard to make a case for them winning at Goodison Park on Sunday. Roberto Martinez traditionally takes the FA Cup very seriously and I expect him to continue to do so.
If we look at Swansea's away record in the league this season, their wins have all come against sides who were really struggling at the time - Crystal Palace, West Brom and Fulham make up the grand total of their away league wins.
These two sides have only met once before in the FA Cup and that was way back in 1954, so there's no real data to compare between them in this competition. They have however met nine times in the top flight since then and Swansea haven't recorded a single win.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
A glance across the last ten results for both these teams presents a pretty evenly-matched set of scores that have gone over and under 2.5 goals. It's almost exactly a 50/50 split and so is tough to call. The market sees Under 2.5 Goals as the outside shout, trading at a touch over evens at 2.0421/20 with Overs at a slimmer 1.865/6.
This is a pick 'em market for this game, but if you think Everton (who will have the lion's share of the play) still lack that cutting edge they showed against Spurs then the value bet is to take the bigger price on Unders.
In the absence of Lukaku, Everton will need to look elsewhere for goals and there are a few players in their side that have weighed in here and there across the season so far. One such player is Kevin Mirallas, who gets forward an awful lot and is decent goalscoring form with three goals in his last five games.
The talented Belgian shares free kick duty with Leighton Baines as well, and all this points towards him being a decent outside bet to score at any time on Sunday lunchtime. If you can get him at anything over around 3.55/2 he's worth sticking a few quid on.
Correct Score/Everton -1
I like Everton to win this game, they've looked strong in the FA Cup so far this season (winning their two previous games 4-0) and I have a feeling Garry Monk will be conscious that his side are just four points of relegation and have two really difficult games following this one on the horizon, first against Napoli in the Europa League and then a trip to Anfield.
Everton to win 2-0 is currently available at 8.615/2 and that seems like the most likely scoreline/outcome to me. I can see Everton dominating on their own patch, scoring and then scoring again late on to put the game to bed. If you think correct score bets are a bit punchy, the alternative is the Everton -1 market; it gives you a bit more flexibility and you should be able to get a price of around 2.77/4ish.
Back Everton to win at 1.645/8
Back Kevin Mirallas to score at any time at around 3.55/2
Back Everton -1 at anything over 2.77/4